Through nearly four minutes of action during his Bellator 244 prelim bout, undefeated featherweight Weber Almeida (4-0) had kept things under control with his latest opponent inside the cage.
Tajikistan’s Salim Mukhidinov, a 7-5 veteran from the esteemed American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, largely had not touched the karate black belt in Almeida outside of some low kicks. But Almeida hadn’t quite delivered the highlight reel knockout he was looking for, despite delivering some strong kicks and punches to start.
Finally, that chance came at the 1:20 mark of the first round.
Mukhidinov, perhaps out of frustration, chased Almeida against the cage throwing a looping overhand right as “The Silverback” was backing up.
Instinctively, the Machida Karate prospect switched his stance into orthodox, delivering a counter cross of his own, flattening the larger AKA product and earning his fourth straight career TKO victory and third straight inside the Bellator cage.
It was the kind of cold-blooded precision Almeida has quickly developed a reputation for in his burgeoning tenure under the Bellator banner, but talk to the Brazilian-born fighter about what’s going on inside his mind during a fight, and one might get an entirely different impression of what makes him a great fighter.
“It’s about the happiness for me,” Almedia told MMA-Prospects with the smile for which his friends and training partners have come to largely know him. “I love what I do and I hope, one day, people can see my progress and take it as an inspiration to make their dream true.”
Almeida’s positivity has largely been a guiding force in his young professional mixed martial arts career. It is an inspiration he draws from his sister Jessica, who has special needs.
“She is not available to walk or to talk, but she is happy with a big smile every day,” shared Almeida. He said of what inspires him about her, “She never gives up, and she fights every day for her life.”
At just 4-0, Almeida is still relatively green in the MMA world. But the 32-year-old is hardly a novice when it comes to martial arts. Formerly from Cuiaba, Almeida has been training in karate since he was 5, his father himself a black belt in the martial art, and Almeida has competed in numerous karate-based tournaments across the country before transitioning to MMA.
In just three fights since debuting in January of 2019 at Bellator 214, he has already performed like an elite veteran. In those three bouts, Almeida has outclassed his opponents in a variety of ways, using the world-class striking, footwork, and distance management that his Shotokan karate style is known for combined with a high level of athleticism.
In each fight, Almeida has ended his opponents’ nights on counter-punches, crushing them in a brutal fashion that has him quickly gaining traction in Bellator’s crowded featherweight field. Almeida, for his part, however, finds being in the cage as relaxing as learning a new instrument, one of the other many talents he has accumulated since his youth.
“I always feel I was born to do that, it’s like playing some instrument,” Almeida said of what it’s like to fight. “It’s like a dance; it’s a great feeling.”
Almeida spent time in orchestra as a young boy, playing the flute first at 11 years of age. Over time, he would go on to travel the world to play in front of crowds in places like France, Germany, and Austria.
“Everything happened because my dad gave me a keyboard [piano],” Almeida said, laughing about how he has quickly picked up as many instruments as he has picked up new fighting techniques over the years. “I like to play the flute, piano, guitar, and drums.”
Today, Almeida trains under the watchful eyes of the Machida brothers, former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto (26-10) and Bellator staple Chinzo (5-3). The brothers have grown accustomed to Weber’s charisma, whether he’s impressing with his fighting skills or even playing music when visiting the Machida estate.
Lyoto first discovered Almeida at a karate seminar in Salvador, Brazil, inviting him to join his high-profile training camp in preparation to face Vitor Belfort shortly thereafter.
In just a few short years, Almeida has already made a quick impression with the typically more reserved Machidas and the fighters in their school with his joyful personality. If a fighter like Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson is considered the ‘NMF’ champion – a play on Jorge Masvidal’s ‘BMF’ title – then Almeida might be next in line to contend for the belt.
“Weber’s personality is one of a kind,” Lyoto told MMA-Prospects, praising his training partner’s sunny persona outside the cage. “He’s so positive, and every day, he’s smiling all day. He always comes up to you with a good energy, which is so hard nowadays. But he does that as second nature.”
For Almeida, to join Lyoto for his Belfort camp and to be invited to train in Southern California were the first steps in a long journey on a boyhood dream. Oh, and California living is nice, too.
“It was always my goal live in California. I like California because of the weather,” Weber said of his Lomita, California, home, though the beaches could use some work, he says.
“I like also [to] go to the beach, but I am not going inside the water because it’s cold for me,” he joked, pointing to California’s comparatively cooler waters to his native Brazil.
While his personality outside of the cage is light-hearted, kind, and joyful, opponents inside the cage see a different side of Almeida, stalking his prey and methodically taking them out with ease… a lesson Almeida’s primary Machida Karate training partner, LFA and Karate Combat veteran Bruno Souza (7-1), learned quickly while sparring with him in preparation for his own fights.
“[It’s] terrible. You don’t want to be training with a guy so technical and with that knockout power every day,” Souza laughed. “Jokes [aside], it is great. He has a different skillset, but also he can change his game to help you if it is necessary, so it is really great to have someone like him, training together.”
The elder Machida brother, Chinzo, serves as Almeida’s primary head coach. He agrees that when it comes to sparring Weber, he presents an interesting challenge that’s hard to strategize against even for other Shotokan black belts like those in their camp.
“Before I did more [sparring], but now, not so often,” Chinzo said, describing the tall task of outworking Almeida in the training room. “He’s very explosive.”
Almeida splits time training primarily with Machida Karate and CMMA in Gardena, California. When he is not training for his next fight, however, he is helping teach the next generation of martial artists, the local youths at the Machida Karate Academy.
Tomomi Shimomura, an assistant teacher with a son of her own in the prestigious karate school, has seen firsthand how Alemida’s magnetic personality can rub off on young budding martial artists.
“Every class, he puts 100 percent of his effort into teaching. He loves it and is great at teaching little kids because he makes the class entertaining and engaging,” said Shimomura. “And the little kids love him. You can tell that he wants you to absorb everything he teaches you from the enthusiasm he shows in his teaching.”
For Almeida, it’s what he sees in his students that drives him to teach.
“The Machida students remind me of when I started karate. I was starving for knowledge, looking for new techniques. They have a karate spirit, and I know they will learn more and more about our karate.”
Team Machida is no doubt thankful to have Almeida as a teacher, student, and teammate, but it’s not just his fighting prowess that makes him the perfect representative for their unique school of karate. To Chinzo, it’s about how he carries himself outside the cage.
“He’s getting our philosophy and mindset to be not only a good fighter, but to have that good mentality and mindset to prepare for everyday life,” the elder Machida said of his talented student.
“It’s not about only his technique, but his respect for others,” the former UFC titlist said of Almeida. “He learns so fast. Sometimes, when he struggles, he’s so persistent, and that’s a very good quality for a fighter.”
With a combination of elite striking and a wholesome personality, Almeida already has the makings of a possible future champion and fan-favorite in this Bellator, according to Lyoto.
“He has very good skills. He’s so dedicated; he’s a very talented guy, and also he can [combine] everything together,” he said of Almeida’s potential stardom. “I believe in him, and I believe one day he’s going to be a champion, for sure.”
Though Almeida is committed to becoming a champion one day, he still has more altruistic goals for MMA and martial arts beyond winning a title.
“I will be champion of the world,” said Almeida. “I am building my legacy, and I want to show the kids and people they can do it. I believe everything is possible if you enjoy what you’re doing.”
If his three stellar victories in Bellator say anything so far, it is that Almeida definitely enjoys what he is doing.